Tuesday, May 10, 2011

OCD A to Z: F is for Feared Consequences

seattle library shelves

Whatever your obsession is, there is a feared consequence that fuels the leap into compulsions. This is useful information for constructing exposures. The irony is that OCD claims to protect you from whatever consequences you fear, but can instead bring on those consequences. I notice this with reading obsessions.

I sometimes get the thought that I might not truly understand what I just read, so I go back and read it again, and again, and get stuck on one page. The rereading is the compulsion, in an attempt to prevent misunderstanding, and yet this makes it even harder for me to understand what I am reading, because I am disrupting the flow of the writing. An exposure would be to keep reading, even if I'm not sure I understand.

This also happens with conversations, and a desire to include every possible detail the other person needs to understand fully. This made my sessions with my exposure therapist a challenge at first, because my efforts to include everything made it difficult to focus on anything. I feared he wouldn't be able to help me if I wasn't absolutely thorough, but humans can't convey every possible fact in an hour, and it actually is overwhelming to be listening to this, and makes it harder for the other person to understand.

Jonathan Grayson has a section about these obsessions and tactics for doing exposures in his book Freedom From OCD.


  1. I get stuck on doing things. My husband made some lemon tarts and he was going to take one to work for after lunch. When he grabbed one, I said no no no, not that one and he asked why and I said because if you take that one, you'll wreck the two lots of three together. He did take the one I wanted him to, but he whispered to me "OCD" afterwards. I have not being diagnosed with OCD but I know I have a few little OCD traits. I have also got stuck on a page and re-read it because I must make sure I get the meaning right. I only really do this if I am tired though, so I don't think it counts, I think every does this when they are tired. It must be exhausting having to fit all that stuff into a session with your therapist though. It would be overwhelming. Thinking of you!

  2. Hello. I have OCD, too. Now that I'm an adult it's mostly obsessions, and mental compulsions. Along with the reading: Sometimes I can't get passed the fear of "losing the ability to read". Sort of like I never knew. This is really upsetting, because I have high reading comprehension and I'm also a writer. How can I write if I can't read? The obsession is silly, I know it is; nevertheless, it still bothers...sometimes hours on end. Arghh! You should check out my website. The one that is attached to my name here, is one that concerns OCD, ADD and writing...er uh... attempted writing at least. lol!

  3. My therapist calls these types of fears anxious predictions. I It seems I have similar anxious predictions as you with respect to reading. My strategy is the unuseful avoidance tactic. No use in academia!

  4. It certainly makes things difficult, doesn't it?

  5. Oh, the problems of conversations, especially interviews, but others too, as well as blog posts and responses. What if, I don't say something important or say something wrong, thereby deceiving the person, thus having done wrong. Your right; not everything can get said.

  6. Sairs--thanks for thinking of me! OCD can seem alien at times, but like you say,everyone gets some of these thoughts. It's a matter of how much time and energy they suck up, and the suffering they cause.

    MDK--That sucks to have the fear of losing the ability to read--and the very ridiculousness makes it even worse. To carry on, and keep reading and writing, is definitely an exposure, but worth it.

    Caity--Academia was full of anxious predictions for me!!

    Abigail--blog posts and responses are big exposures for me, but definitely starting this blog last year has helped me deal with this fear.